Saturday, December 29, 2012

Handling Rejection Letters

We all get them at one time or other. My writer friends and I call them “good rejection letters” when they offer some type of feedback or have some kind of comments on them rather than just a form letter. One friend rolls her eyes and says, “Forgive them Father for they know not …” Beginning in 2013, most of us will start anew sending out those queries in the hopes of getting published. And it will happen. Do not give up hope. But there might be some rejections mixed in there somewhere. What to do?
According to Chuck Sambuchino’s article, “Ten Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters,” posted on the Guide to Literary Agents Writer’s Digest blog, “Rejection letters strengthen you, build courage, determination and belief in your work.”  Huh? For real? 
Actually, his ten “hidden gifts” do make sense. He writes that “...the good ones (offering constructive criticism) help you develop as a writer.” 
Do not get discouraged. We’ve all been there. Read the article and see for yourself. Happy writing and success in 2013!!

“Rejections are business letters, not personal letters.” Jane Smiley

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Picture book article

Here’s an interesting article in the School Library Journal blog by Patti Lee Gauch, a former editorial director at Philomel Books about the “state of the picture book.” She mentions in one of her talks “how books that introduce chaos into a controlled environment and that are characterized by fun and playfulness tend to resonate with young readers.” Her comments on e-books: “acknowledging that electronic versions do have their place. Gauch, however, stressed that a physical book is in and of itself an art form …” 
I had the pleasure of attending one of Ms. Gauch’s talks when I journeyed to the Highlights Writers’ Workshop at Chautauque a while back. I got my binder out just now and looked over the notes that I took during Ms. Gauch’s talk. “Move out of your comfort zone,” she said. “A reader doesn’t want to travel where he’s been before. Make your book different. Write an unexpected story. You as a writer have the stage. What do you want your reader to see?”
Going back over my notes brought back so many fond memories of Chautauqua. I actually met and talked with Pam Muñoz Ryan of Esperanza Rising and Carolyn Coman of the Newbery Honor book, What Jamie Saw, plus a host of other famous writers. What a treat that was for me. 
So listen to Ms. Gauch’s advice. Write the story that only you can write. Happy writing and Happy Holidays!

Get your first draft done any way you can. Then the real work starts: revision." -- Harold Underdown

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Writer Goals for New Year

Well, my Cookie Exchange Party is over and 2012 is just about over too. Time to set new goals as a writer. I seem to have the same goals every year: write and read more, submit manuscripts to publishers, nurture myself as a writer, attend at least one writer’s conference or workshop, value my writer friends, attend critique sessions, keep the hope up. Of course, I don’t always get all of these done. Each year seems to go by faster than the last one.
Cookie Exchange Party
The above is what I wrote a couple of years ago, but it still applies every year. I went over my journal to see if I had really read as much as I had hoped to in 2012. I could have done better, but, oh, well. Some of the books I read were: Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass, Wonder Struck, Dead End in Norvelt, The Silent Boy, Small Steps, Eggs, Tree by Leaf, The Hunger Games, The Story of Ferdinand, The White Elephant, Who Moved My Cheese?, Dear Mr. Henshaw, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Alchemy and Meggy Swann, Diary of Anne Frank, Wonder, Okay For Now, The Mighty Miss Malone, The Lions of Little Rock, Transfer (poetry), and Inside Out and Back Again (in verse).
I am presently in the middle of Summer of the Mariposas written by my friend, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and published by Lee & Low. 
To help you get started in 2013, visit  Rachelle Burke’s Resources for Children’s Writers’ blog. She writes that her resources will “help you improve your writing, network with other writers, get published, and sell your work.” 
Good news: the final art (illustrations) for my next picture book, Lupita’s First Dance, came via email a few days ago. The illustrator, Gabhor Utomo, did an excellent job. I can hardly wait to hold the new book in my hands.

Our prayers and thoughts to the people in Newtown, Connecticut.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Stories

Like I do every year around this time, I like to read Christmas stories from two books that my writer friends (who contributed to stories in the books) gave me a few years ago. Some stories are nostalgic, some are humorous, others are a little sad but with hope at the end. Always with hope at the end. The stories are uplifting and inspirational. Every morning I read at least two stories from each book.

Maybe you have a story or two that you’ve been meaning to send to publishers who publish anthologies. That is a great way for a writer to break into the business and get a byline. Not only will readers enjoy reading your story, but you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing your name in print. Make it a goal next year to submit your manuscripts to magazines, book anthologies, newspaper articles, as well as to book publishers. I might just be reading your story next Christmas.

Now I have to get ready for our annual Cookie Exchange Party, which I am hosting this year. Wishing you Happy Holidays with your families. Back to baking!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Queries and Cover Letters

You’ve written a story. Now it’s time to send it out. How do you query a publisher? What do you say in your letter? Should you send a query or a cover letter and what is the difference? In her article, “Rites of Submission: Cover Letters and Query Letters,” written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn on the Underdown blog, Ogburn lists samples of what to do and what NOT to do when writing queries and cover letters and common mistakes that some writers make.
Regarding cover letters, she writes: So what is a good cover letter? First it is a courtesy. As an editor, I did find submissions that lacked a cover letter a bit rude, like a phone caller who doesn't bother saying hello or identifying themselves before launching into the conversation.
On query letters, she writes: A good query letter is a different beast. Simplicity is still a prime virtue, but a query letter is a come-on; it should entice the editor to read more. It should give a taste of your book, a description of what it is, what is special about it, and it should be less than one page long.
So dust up your manuscript, polish it, and send it on its way. Query or cover letter? That’s up to you. Good luck!
San Antonio River Walk Christmas

You wouldn't expect to pick up a violin, never having played and appear the next day at Carnegie Hall as a soloist. Writing is not so different. It takes practice and learning. -- Jean Karl